The Texas Retailers Association is leading a charge against the Boarder Adjustment Tax – a segment of the House GOP’s tax reform plan – arguing that the “ill-conceived effort” would hurt consumers and retailers.
Thursday the group announced the official Texas launch of the Americans for Affordable Products coalition, a collection of more than 400 companies, groups and associations from across the country that teamed up to oppose the tax.
“Rather than advancing this job killing, anti consumer tax, Republicans should stick to the conservative principles they got elected on and cut spending so they can lower taxes fairly and equitably for families and businesses alike,” Texas Retailers Association President and CEO George Keleman said.
Kathryn Sharp, vice president of tax at Stage Stores, Inc. based in Houston and member of the association said that while the groups “whole heartedly” supports tax reform it “should not be at the expense of the American consumer.”
Keleman said the tax would be harmful to small and large businesses alike, especially grocers.
“At the end of the day there’s a lot of resource material and raw material that we just don’t produce in this company or we don’t produce enough of, and that’s why we have to import them,” Keleman said.
The push against the tax has garnered the support of several conservative groups in the state, including the Texas Conservative Coalition, Conservative Tea Party of Texas, the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition and the Harris County Conservative Tea Party Coalition, according to the Americans for Affordable Products website.
Keleman said the Texas Conservative Coalition distributed a letter to members of the House and Senate voicing opposition to the tax. The coalition declined to provide a copy of the letter since it hasn’t been sent yet but confirmed that it has been circulated.
“So you have a large group of Tea Party organizations, conservative organizations that are actually engaged in leading the opposition to this,” saidTodd Smith, an Austin based political consultant and lobbyist.
“The dynamic that makes that so interesting is because this is a bill being proffered by a conservative Republican from Texas, Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, but you’re seeing more activity from conservative organizations in the state of Texas who understand the dynamic and why this uniquely hurts the state of Texas.”
By Eleanor Dearman
Copyright March 30, 2017, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved
Here’s a compilation of some of the biggest stories affecting grocers for February 2017.
New Rules from TX Department of State Health Services on Food Handlers
Texas Food Establishment Rules adopted this past year (September 2016) have several new requirements for retail establishments. One of those areas of rule change is in article 228.33 (click here to review regulations) that now require a Certified Food Protection Manager on duty at all times when the store is open for business. In addition, an individual working with unpackaged food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces is required to take an accredited Food Handler training class.
Information on both Certified Food Protection Manager and Food Handler’s training classes is available at https://tx.foodprotectiontaskforce.com/.
Texas Department of Agriculture Fuel Calibration Regulation Takes Effect Jan. 1 2018
This past year, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) adopted new regulations regarding retail motor fuel dispensers (gas pumps). Retail motor fuel dispensers must be on a maintenance program where they are calibrated every two years by a certified service technician registered with TDA. The new regulation and compliance enforcement goes into effect January 1, 2018. The compliance penalties can be severe if your fuel dispensers aren’t calibrated, certified by registered technician and sent to TDA. Click here (see enclosure-Texas Dept of Ag ) to access the new regulation from TDA.
FMI Action Regarding Release of Individual Retailer SNAP Redemption Data
Judge grants stay and FMI’s motion to intervene. In late January, FMI (Food Marketing Institute) filed a motion to intervene in the Argus Leader court case, so that FMI could have the opportunity to appeal the November 30, 2016, decision on its own behalf. The motion was filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota by local counsel. FMI has announced that the court granted their motion in its entirety. The court has allowed FMI to intervene, granted a stay of its judgment, and has given FMI 15 days to file its notice of appeal.
Following the appeal by FMI, they then received confirmation from an attorney representing USDA, that USDA will not release the SNAP retail data until the appeal is resolved. The stay will remain in place until an appeal decision is issued. We will continue to monitor the appeal and report any movement on the case.
Texas WIC Program Starts Process to Move to Three Year Renewal Contract
This past December, Texas WIC sent out renewal packets to approximately one-third of their WIC Vendor Community. Due to several issues regarding the length of time to review and process the packets per individual location, Texas WIC was instructed to send out the packets in mid-December with a return date of January 12, 2017. In the future, WIC will not have to go out this early, and this was a one-time process in order to get the system set up, reviews handled, and technology in place. We can expect that the agency will be required to follow a timeline of starting the contract renewal process in May, possibly June, for the contract renewals for October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019. Texas WIC is currently developing a Web Portal that would allow WIC Vendors to log on and correct information on each individual account, when needed. That is expected to be in place by 2018.
It is critical that Texas WIC has a key contact that includes correct e-mail address, office and cell phone numbers!
Reach out to Texas WIC Vendor Relations Outreach Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact the Vendor Relations Team Lead- Bessie Felton at Bessie.email@example.com or 512-341-4779.
SNAP Program Statistics Update
SNAP Program participation is showing very slight decrease from December to January in the new year. We’ve also enclosed the comparison last year from February 16 to March 16 as well as twelve month rolling average to give you some idea of what is expected in the next couple of months. Nationally SNAP Program enrollment as well as benefit dollars continue to decline from five percent to approaching six percent from last year. Enclosed are the latest numbers from USDA on our neighboring states.
TEXAS Current/Past Results
Month Cases Participates Total Dollars Ave. $ per case
Dec 16 1,654,411 3,912,257 $448,725,497.00 $271.00
Jan 17 1,648,030 3,811,968 $443,969,497.00 $269.00
Twelve Month Rolling Average
Dec-Jan 17 1,636,999 3,878,197 $444,904,444.00 $272.00
Look back-Last Year- 2015
Feb 16 1,600,141 3,796,125 $436,228,019.00 $273.00
Mar 16 1,596,574 3,783,594 $432,416,142.00 $271.00
NOV 16– Cases Participants Benefits
Nation (-04.9%) (-05.0%) (-05.8%)
Texas +03.8% +03.4% +03.2%
Louisiana +11.6% +09.6% +10.0%
Arkansas (-15.4%) (-11.8%) (-16.4%)
Oklahoma +0.7% +0.5% +1.7%
Recently TRA’s Joe Williams spoke to students of Rice University about a very important topic: Food Deserts. Joe’s been working with grocers across the nation for decades and has seen the impact a proper grocery store can have on a community. He also knows what can happen when fresh, healthy food isn’t readily available. We’ve taken his notes and expanded upon them to give the general public better knowledge of a problem that is a major concern to not only our membership, but the people in the communities they serve.
Let’s start from the beginning; What is a Food Desert? According to the USDA a Food Desert is defined as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
To expand upon that further, according to the US Department of Agriculture the conditions that typically lead to these Food Deserts are as follows:
1/5 of residents in the area live in poverty.
1/3 of residents live far from supermarkets.
RURAL AREAS; 10 miles from supermarket
URBAN AREAS; 1 mile from supermarket
Often times, Food Deserts can also be referred to as “Food Swamps” because not only are these areas without healthy food options, what options are left are highly processed, high sodium, and sugary fast food.
Sadly, another term that goes hand in hand with Food Desert is “Food Insecurity”. Food Insecurity is defined as a lack of access to a sufficient amount of food because of limited funds. Currently it is estimated approximately 49 million people (1 in 8) are considered food insecure and vulnerable to poor health as a result. Research has shown that this lack of access to healthy foods can contribute greatly to health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Take a moment to think about the area you live in, or your loved ones live in. Where are your healthy options for food? Food Deserts can sometimes be less obvious. Even though your neighborhood may have a corner grocer or even several, that doesn’t mean that they’re meeting the healthy needs of the area. Some corner stores do in fact carry fresh fruits and vegetables, but can hardly compete with large chain store that have much greater leverage and economies of scale to bring a wider of variety of products at lower prices.
According to the Milken Institute “Obesity and excess weight is an expanding health problem for more than 60 percent of Americans, and a new study by Hugh Waters and Ross DeVol finds that it’s a tremendous drain on the U.S. economy as well. The total cost to treat health conditions related to obesity—ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s—plus obesity’s drag on attendance and productivity at work exceeds $1.4 trillion annually. That’s more than twice what the U.S. spends on national defense.”
Given the startling statistics listed above, it only makes sense that we as a nation need to start addressing our food problem. But where to begin? Building stores in low-income neighborhoods comes with unique complications; according to the Food Marketing Institute: “A large customer base reliant on food stamps creates erratic cash flows with a rush of business in the beginning of the month when food stamps are issued and slow business at the end of the month.”
And retailers know this to be true: The nation’s top 75 food retailers opened almost 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011-2015. Of those, 2,434 were grocery stores– ONLY 250 were in food deserts. Discount stores make up two-thirds of new stores in food deserts – creating less competition and less incentive to diversify what these stores offer.
Grocery stores are not the bad guys in this scenario. They’re for profit businesses that need to be able to turn a profit in order to pay their employees and keep their doors open. The average supermarket operates on a 1 or 2 percent profit margin and must be sustainable for at least a decade to recoup any profit, so retailers cannot afford to pick unprofitable locations.
But studies show that just introducing healthy food options in low-income food deserts isn’t enough. The National Academy of Science in 2009 found “the supply of healthy food will not suddenly induce people to buy and eat such food over less-healthy options, especially when relative prices of the healthier foods are high.”
In other words, better access to fresh and whole foods alone won’t get rid of poor health outcomes in low-income areas. Instead, residents of low-income areas need a holistic approach that empowers local residents and workers, takes into account small mom-and-pop grocery stores, encourages these businesses to invest in their community, and boosts healthy eating habits for the long run.
Solutions must go beyond the idea of simply building more grocery stores. Because as mention above, profit margins are razor thin and 1 in 5 grocery stores have gone out of business in the last four years in rural areas.
Many experts propose there are five basic solutions to eliminating a Food Desert:
Private Investment: This could mean a grocery store owner selling stock directly to the public to initially fund the cost of opening and operating a grocery store in a food desert.
Public Private Partnership: The USDA supports public and private investments in the form of loans, grants, promotion, and other programs designed to create healthy food options in food deserts across the country. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes $125 million for HFFI to make nutritious food more accessible, and the President’s most recent budget proposal includes a request of $13 million for this work. The initiative provides financial and technical assistance to eligible fresh, healthy food retailers for the purposes of market planning and promotion efforts, as well as infrastructure and operational improvements designed to stimulate demand among low-income consumers for healthy foods and to increase the availability and accessibility of locally and regionally produced foods in under served areas.
Community Gardens: Also known as “Urban Farming” provide fresh, free food to stressed neighborhoods. According to one study, people who participate in community gardens have a “greater consumption of fresh vegetables compared to non-gardeners, and lower consumption of sweet foods and drinks.”
Mobile or Limited Day Market: These are markets that bring healthy fruits and vegetables into under served communities on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Local Ordinances: Some cities, in an effort to combat food deserts, have created Retail Incentive Programs which aim to improve access to fresh
foods at corner stores in neighborhoods that are lacking. This distribution policy allocates benefits at no charge to both corner store owners and residents of food deserts. This program provides selected corner stores free technical assistance for store conversions in order to stock fresh foods.
There’s no magic bullet to solving the Food Desert problem. The solution is a mix of what’s listed above and support from the local communities. By becoming aware of this problem and becoming active in your community, you can help fight this issue. No city is without food deserts, and by addressing this problem, it not only helps those who live there directly, but it improves the health of the city as a whole.
You can use this map to find the food desert nearest to you. You might be surprised at how close they are.
For Immediate Release
January 3, 2017
AUSTIN, TX – The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) has prepared legislative priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature. Collectively, TRA represents more than 320,000 retail establishments and over 3.5 million jobs across the state. The association supports all levels of Texas retail including grocery stores, chains and single location small businesses.
- TRA supports inventory property tax relief and repeal. Texas is one of only seven states that allows local property taxes to be assessed on retail inventories. The other states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) are not states with whom Texas normally competes for new business and economic development opportunities. Additionally, inventory property tax relief is not selective, it benefits large and small businesses equally and attracts greater investment in the Texas economy.
- TRA supports a business friendly regulatory environment. TRA member companies are regulated, licensed, inspected, and taxed by agencies in Texas and appreciate the Legislature’s efforts to continue to make Texas retail friendly. TRA supports regulation that is manageable and that allows our members to provide excellent customer service, top quality products and continued business success in the retail industry. TRA appreciates the various approaches our membership takes to providing these services and supports their efforts to make those choices independently without unnecessary regulatory burdens.
- TRA members support Texas customers and communities. All TRA members want to provide the best service to their customers and communities, and do so in a variety of ways. Many TRA members participate in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) and want to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximize customer experiences. Insuring product availability, particularly fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food items to our customers while also allowing retailers to manage employees and inventories, is essential in this process. To do so, TRA will advocate to expand the SNAP distribution schedule from its current 15 days to 28 days. This will provide both customers and businesses with a more even and predictable shopping experiences across the state.
The Texas Retailers Association looks forward to working with the state’s leadership and the Texas Legislature on these important priorities on behalf of our state’s retail community during the upcoming session.
The Texas Retailers Association is a trade association representing retail outlets of every size and sector across the state. The mission of the TRA is to be a strong advocate for the retail industry and to provide value-added services and programs pertinent to members. The Texas Retailers Association is the state affiliate of the National Retail Federation and the Texas retail industry represents more than 3.5 million jobs at over 320,000 stores statewide. In fact, the retail sector in Texas is more than twice the size of any other industry and one in four Texas jobs is within retail.
TEXAS SERVICE SECTOR AND RETAIL EXECUTIVES POSTED RECORD LEVELS OF CONFIDENCE IN THEIR COMPANIES’ OUTLOOK, CITING THE END OF THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND THE STATE’S IMPROVING OIL AND GAS SECTOR.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ future general business activity index for the state’s service sector hit an all-time high of 39.8, indicating optimism that business will improve in the next six months, according to results from the Dallas Fed’s service sector outlook survey released Wednesday.
The Dallas Fed’s future company outlook index jumped from 32.6 in November to 39 in December. More than 46 percent of executives surveyed said they expect company conditions to look up by summer
Texas retailers were even more optimistic. The future general business activity index for retailers rocketed from 19.9 last month to 41.9 in December, according to the Dallas Fed’s retail outlook survey results. More than 48 percent of surveyed executives said they expect retail activity to pick up by June.
That hope carried over to retailers’ own companies. The future company outlook index for retailers jumped more than 16 points to 44.9 in December, up from 28.6 in November.
Business leaders have long complained that regulations enacted by President Barack Obama — including the Affordable Care Act and changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that allow overtime pay for some salaried workers — have driven up costs.
The state’s service sector — which covers intangible goods such as health care, entertainment and legal and professional services and makes up roughly 70 percent of the Texas economy — saw revenue grow at a quicker pace in December. The Dallas Fed’s service sector revenue index jumped from 13.7 in November to 20.6 this month.
“Part of that uptick is the result of what appears to be more a lucrative holiday shopping season”, said George Kelemen, CEO and President of the Texas Retailers Association.
“We think that’s a good forebear for going into the new year,” Kelemen said.
Online vendors raked in $79.2 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20, according to the latest figures from Adobe Insights. The National Retail Federation predicted total holiday retail sales could jump 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion from last year’s $632.8 billion. Total holiday sales could climb past $1 trillion this year, according to a separate study conducted by Deloitte University.
Sales are also recovering in areas of the state hit hard by the oil and gas downturn, Jordan said. But businesses in border towns took a hit as shoppers from Mexico spent less because of the weakening peso, she said.
For the full article, visit the San Antonio Express-News here.
The National Grocers Association (NGA), along with other merchant organizations and payment systems stakeholders, raised concerns this year to both the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over Visa’s actions that were deployed as part of EMV migration upgrades. As you may recall, retailers began seeing new screens shown on PIN Pad terminals, often after EMV updates, that gave consumers the option to choose “Visa Debit” or “US Debit.” Visa debit routed the transaction via Visa’s debit network, violating the Durbin Amendment that gave merchants the choice which network to route the transaction. Last week, NGA and other merchant trade groups sent a letter to Visa calling for the company to eliminate any operating rule that violates federal law. Visa’s response to NGA can be found HERE. Following an investigation by the FTC and a ruling by the Federal Reserve, Visa announced this week that it will no longer use EMV technology and rules to inhibit merchant routing choice. Click HERE to read more about Visa’s modified debit routing policies.
It’s that time of the year again, when we all get to spread holiday cheer. Sometimes that means you’ve got to ship that cheer across the country and hope that it arrives in time to make it under the tree. Here at TRA, we’d like to take at least a little worry out of the process by compiling a list of holiday shipping deadlines from 3 major providers. Keep in mind, these dates are United States based, if you’ve got an Aunt in the UK, you better get to it! Good luck and happy holidays from all of us here at the Texas Retailers Association.
First-Class Mail: 12/20
Priority Mail: 12/21
Priority Mail Express Service: 12/23
Express Saver: 12/20
FedEx 2 Day AM: 12/21
FedEx 2 Day Overnight: 12/22
FedEx Same Day City (Standard): 12/23
FedEx SameDay City (Priority): 12/25
UPS 3 Day Select: 12/19
UPS 2nd Day Air: 12/23
UPS Next Day Air: 12/24
AUSTIN – Target announced Thursday it will open its first “flexible-format” location in Texas near the University of Texas-Austin.
The Minneapolis-based company said the 22,000-square-foot store will be at the southeast corner of 21st Street and Guadalupe Street, within the Dobie Twenty21 building. The move is part of Target’s plan to open stores in densely populated urban and suburban markets, and near college campuses. Target added it plans to open stores near the University of North Carolina, University of Southern California and University of Florida, among others, before December 2017.
“Growth on college campuses and in urban markets is a priority for Target. We’re able to serve more guests by adding flexible-format stores near top universities across the country, including the quick-trip shopping experience we’ll bring to the University of Texas campus in July 2017,” said Mark Schindele, senior vice president, Properties, Target. “We’re thrilled to open our first flexible-format store in Austin and to join the Longhorn community.”
Target said the new Austin store will be tailored to meet the needs of the UT community, which includes:
-Dorm and apartment essentials
-UT apparel and accessories
-Fresh groceries, including “grab-and-go” items
-Services including Order Pickup and Target Mobile
Target currently operates 31 flexible-format stores, and as of Dec. 1 has announced plans for 26 additional flexible-format stores in 2017-2019.
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